Toolbars…Are They Helpful?

October 14, 2009

How many toolbars do you currently have installed in your web browser? Did you know that the more toolbars you have, the slower your browser will behave? Toolbars may seem like they are a useful tool but in reality they aren’t as useful as you may think.  Most of the time, the “features” they add are already in the latest version of your browser.

So what are some popular toolbars that people use? The Google toolbar is one of the most widely used toolbars. It allows you to search with Google from any web page, fill out forms automatically, and also features its own pop-up blocker. It allows you to easily access your Google calendar and Gmail accounts. The Yahoo toolbar is very similar to the Google toolbar but it also has a “spyware protection” feature, though the extent of its abilities are not widely documented. There is also the Windows Live toolbar, which is designed to interact with your Windows Live account, and there is the MSN toolbar, which also functions like the Google toolbar.

While it may seem nice to have toolbars to “increase” functionality, they are really just causing problems. Even if they seem like they are working properly, they are often causing underlying issues with your browser that you don’t know about. Have you ever had, “An unexpected error has occurred…” and then you are forced to close your browser? We all have. The majority of those errors can be stopped by uninstalling toolbars and plugins.

ToolbarsAn example of too many toolbars.

The other problem with toolbars is they just seem to appear without you intentionally installing them. Also, you often think you get rid of them by making them not appear, but unless they are fully uninstalled, they will still exist on your computer. This not only takes up space but it will often prompt you for updates when you start your browser which takes up time. This happens even if they aren’t enabled.

Here is the problem. When you install programs they will often have an option to “Install xyz toolbar” and the option will already be checked. We often just click click through installs to get the program we desire running and overlook the fact that we are installing extra features. The solution is to be careful when installing other programs. Make sure that you are only installing what you want. Take a look at all of the check-boxes and see what is checked by default; you may not want it to be.  We recommend no more than one toolbar be installed.

The latest versions of the Mozilla Firefox Web Browser and Internet Explorer have many of the features that toolbars advertise. Need a quick way to perform a web search? Try using the built-in search box to the right of the address bar. Need a pop-up blocker? They both have that built in. Occasionally there are reasons to have additional toolbars but these are rare instances. We recommend not using add-on toolbars unless there is a specific feature the browser doesn’t support on its own.


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